With a dash of Honesty
Akshay Gajria is a prize winning storyteller, writer and writing coach. He has ghost written two books and his writing has appeared in The Writing Cooperative, The Coffeelicious, Your Story Club, Futura Magazine, Mac O’Clock, The Book Mechanic, Poets Unlimited, StoryMaker, Whiplash, Constellations — an anthology of short stories and more. He completed Computer Engineering from NMIMS in Mumbai and is currently pursuing a MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. He loves making paper planes and struggles to finish his sentences… but gets to them eventually. You can learn more about him and his work at akshaygajria.com
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While ideating about what to write in this March newsletter, I had this idea rolling in my brain where I talk about the new name that I’ve given my Newsletter. Missives from an Island.
I don’t know how other people write (or think, for that matter) but for me, I usually have a trail of words that first rumble in my head and I follow those to create an eventual sentence (then another, then another) either on the screen or on the page. Before I got to my desk and started writing this newsletter, the words that rumbled in my head were “A lot of people have asked me about what Missives from an Island means and…”
This is (or would have been) a bald faced lie.
As much as I would like to portray, no one has asked me about the name change, or rather, no one has asked me why. But I still wanted to portray as if this was a burning question people had. In truth, I just had a burning urge to explain it.
In the Tall Tales writing workshops I used to host back in India (more coming soon, promise), we used to talk about the two voices we have — creative and critical. The creative voice is that untapped creative well that we all have within our subconscious and all writers, painters, artists are asked to dive into it. Over time, alongside my friend and mentor Michael Burns, we’ve created a ton of exercises to help tap into that creative well. Of course, the critical voice was always useful when editing.
These tools — and the names we give them — are super useful when you’re starting out. But the more I’ve written, and studied the craft of writing during the MA, I’ve found something quite contrary to that initial advice.
I’m currently looking for jobs (because London is expensive), and after a lot of soul searching and looking at the job market I’ve realised that as a writer and storyteller, the best place for me, right now, is in the marketing domain. I hate it. I hate marketing. I find the world too noisy already with the amount of ads everyone and everything tries to throw at you for few precious seconds of your attention. And to be someone who adds to that noise — oh, no.
But the worst part is that I’m fairly decent at marketing in my limited sense. I’m good at tooting my own horn or someone else’s — especially if they are paying me. This comes from my creative voice, or what I call my inner-hype-machine. Creating hype, packaging a thing to be bigger than itself is easy. I’m fairly confident at doing it and this somehow makes me an asset in the marketing scheme of things.
And while I use this inner-hype-maker to get a job and then apply the same creative well to the job itself, all I’m left is my critical voice to write with — and like any writing teacher will say, don’t censor yourself before you’ve started writing. Write first, edit later.
But I’ve found my critical voice — the voice that kept telling me I’m not good enough, that voice that looked at my work and demanded it to be better — is far more in tune with my honest self. I like being honest, just telling the bland truth. There is simplicity that no amount of hype can replace. And the more I write, the more I’ve discovered that the best things I’ve written, the things that have been most in tune with my writing voice and writing self have come not from my creative voice but my critical, honest self.
It’s taken me a while to learn the difference but I finally have and that’s what I’m going to do. Write with my critical voice and edit (package) with my inner-hype-machine.
If you’re an aspiring writer, I wouldn’t advice you do that until you’re ready. It took me 12 years to figure this out. All I hope is that your time frame will be much smaller.
Until next month, With words and worse, Akshay
I published a new article talking about my adventures with Apple Pay here in London. Read it here.
Raghav Subbu directed a new YouTube series call Angrezi Mat Jhad. Jimmy Joy did the music for the show. My friends are really having a ball back in India (and I won’t deny I don’t miss it). It’s free to watch on YouTube here.
You’re reading Missives from an Island, a newsletter by Akshay Gajria. This newsletter is delivered to your inbox on the 30th of every month. You can also find Akshay on Twitter, Instagram and Medium. If you found what you read helpful, you can consider tipping him by buying a cup of tea (or three) here or buying his ebook (linked below). You can discover his work at akshaygajria.com